POLL QUESTION

Mainers feel the effects of Va. quake

Office workers gather on the sidewalk in downtown Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, moments after a 5.9 magnitude tremor shook the nation's capitol. The earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.
J. Scott Applewhite | AP
Office workers gather on the sidewalk in downtown Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, moments after a 5.9 magnitude tremor shook the nation's capitol. The earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.
Posted Aug. 23, 2011, at 2:08 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 24, 2011, at 11:19 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Areas of southern Maine felt the effects of the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that rocked Virginia and its surroundings Tuesday afternoon.

Soon after the BDN tweeted the news, people reported feeling the quake in Portland, Brunswick and Yarmouth.

“I’m in Portland and I felt it, though it was very light,” reported Kyle Cronin.

“In Yarmouth, felt it,” Luke Thomas said on Twitter. “Thought it was a train.”

Thomas, a University of Maine student living in Yarmouth, was enjoying a normal day when the rumblings occurred.

“I kind of felt this shake and I was kind of surprised, at first I thought the washing machine in the basement was exploding,” he said. “I asked my girlfriend, ‘Do you feel the house shaking?’ She was like, ‘Oh it must be a train.’”

Thomas said the tremors lasted about “20 to 25 seconds.”

Holly Sherburne, who works in the communications and public affairs office at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, said the college’s Facebook page had numerous responses regarding the quake.

“I was actively on Twitter and Facebook at the time and seeing all the people and our alumni tweeting about the earthquake.”

When Shelburne started feeling the quake, she thought it was construction.

BDN columnist Matthew Gagnon is based in Washington, D.C. He was on the 14th floor of his building when he felt the quake.

“At first it felt kind of like a really aggressive wind,” he said. “Then it kind of slowed down for a second, then really got aggressive for like 10 seconds. You could see the buildings shake.”

“Surprisingly everyone was pretty calm,” he said. “Evacuating our building was very orderly, very quick.”

Maine natives who reside in Virginia also shared their experiences of Tuesday’s quake.

Hope Cairnie, a Sangerville, Maine, native who lives in Chesterfield, Va., about 60 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, said the noise at first sounded like a truck going by her house and then it got louder and the ground started shaking.

“It gradually got bigger and bigger and then you realized it was an earthquake,” she said. “You don’t think in Virginia you’re ever going to have an earthquake, especially that big.“

“It shook the whole house, everything started shaking, furniture started moving, and the curtains were swaying,” Cairnie said. She said she and her eldest daughter, Hayley, gathered up the younger children and everyone headed to a basement bathroom. “It seemed like it took forever to stop; it just kept going and going.”

Her husband, Russell Cairnie, an accountant who works in one of the high rise buildings in Richmond, about 20 miles from the epicenter, said the earthquake started out gradually so employees in his building at first thought it was caused by ongoing construction in the area. As the earthquake grew, he said the building started shaking, the overhead doors to his desk opened and closed, and pictures fell to the floor.

“It was quite violent,” he said.

The quake’s effects could be felt all over the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, even 121 miles away in Newport News, Va.

George and Kathy Wade were both inside their riverfront home on Ferguson Cove, less than 5 miles upriver from the James River Bridge, before the shaking started.

“I was sitting in a recliner and my chair was swaying,” said Kathy Hamm Wade, a Brewer native who has lived in the area for 46 years. “I thought maybe I didn’t have the foot rest locked in. Then I looked up and the French doors between the Florida room and the kitchen were swinging back and forth and the lamps were all swaying.

“We just came from inside checking around the house,” she added. “We don’t appear to have any damage at all.”

Wade called to her husband, a Maine Maritime Academy graduate and retired vice president at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock, who was upstairs at the time.

“The whole house, I swear, swayed back and forth. George said he thought it seemed like it was going up and down,” she added. “I did feel like I was in some kind of Busch Gardens ride for awhile.”

Wade estimated the effects lasted about six or seven seconds in all.

“The [Newport News] Daily Press newspaper said it registered 5.8 in the Hampton Roads area and one of the reasons it was so far-reaching was because it happened only a half-mile down in the earth,” Wade said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever felt one before. There were two in Richmond last year.”

Wade said son Chris, a Maine Maritime Academy graduate who is now a tugboat captain based out of the port of Hampton Roads, felt the quake while on his boat.

“Chris texted me and he said, ‘Wow, what a quake’ and my son Nathan felt it inside the building at the shipyard where he works,” said Wade. “Chris said the water was swelling all around his boat.”

While earthquakes are more common on the West Coast than the East Coast, Alice R. Kelley, a science professor at the University of Maine, said that quakes aren’t unheard of on the Eastern Seaboard.

“It is unusual but not out of the possible scheme of things,” she said. “The Eastern Seaboard does have these small to moderate earthquakes. Not the kind of things that California or Japan experiences.”

After learning of the earthquake in Virgina, Kelley researched that state’s quake history and found that only 10 have occurred in Virginia in the last 240 years.

Buildings in New York City shook briefly. Government buildings in the city, including City Hall, were evacuated. The 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building. Court officers weren’t letting people back in.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was 3.7 miles deep. The quake was in Mineral, Va., in Louisa County.

BDN writers Diana Bowley, Andrew Neff and Ryan McLaughlin and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Hope Cairnie is Bowley’s daughter. Kathy Wade is Neff’s aunt.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the Bowdoin public affairs employee. Her name is Holly Sherburne, not Shelburne.

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